Managing Dual Tax Residency as an Expat

Daniel Wilkie   |   11 Jul 2023   |   10 min read

When you live and work solely in one country, tax residency is straightforward. However, if you are living away from your home country or living between multiple countries, then determining tax residency is complicated.

One of the difficulties in determining tax residency is that the laws applied to residency differ in each country. This means you may simultaneously meet the residency requirements in multiple countries within a given tax period. Alternatively, if you live a particularly transitory life, it may be difficult to identify primary residency.

Note that tax residency is different to citizenship or visa residency. This article discusses what you need to know about tax residency.

Why Residency Matters

As each country has their own rules for taxation, it is important to know which country has taxation rights over you as an individual resident. This is why residency is such a foundational concept.

Being a tax resident of multiple countries has potential implications on how your worldwide income is taxed. Generally, your country of residence has primary taxing rights over your income. It also raises double taxation concerns, with competing tax jurisdictions aiming to potentially tax the same income. As countries sometimes tax the same income, a dual tax resident could face significant tax consequences. For this reason, tax treaties between countries exist to help resolve conflicting taxation rights, including determining tax residency.

As this can be a particularly complex issue it is important to ensure that you consult with qualified tax professionals who are familiar with the tax laws of each country. The following information provides a general overview of the potential tax consequences of being a tax resident in multiple countries.

Taxation Rights

Once residency is determined, your country of residence will have the primary taxing rights. Income that is taxable from other sources will be taxed as income earned by a non-resident.

Double Tax Agreements (DTAs) between countries cover a range of factors to help mitigate double taxation issues, including who has primary taxing rights of specific types of income and can include limitations on the taxing rights of the country where the taxpayer is a non-resident.

For countries that tax on a territorial basis, the country of residence might only legislate taxation over income derived from the country of residence, or foreign income that is remitted into the country.

However, countries that tax on a worldwide basis assess all income earned by the individual, regardless of the source of income.

In either case, DTAs, and other tax relief provisions help alleviate the impact of being taxed in multiple countries. This typically means that when you pay foreign tax on foreign sourced income, your country of residence will count this tax towards the tax they assess on this income.

Tax Residency

As each country has its own rules for determining residency, your first step is working out whether you are a resident in each country that you are connected to. To give an example of how this works we consider the tax residency rules of Australia, Singapore, the USA and the UK.

Tax Residency In Australia

How Residency Is Determined

There are a number of tests used to determine residency in Australia, which are essentially designed to determine whether Australia is your home. This means that you are an Australian tax resident if you reside in Australia, or intend to reside in Australia for a significant period of time, and you have a permanent home there.

If you are an Australian permanent resident who is living and working overseas on a temporary basis, you may still be considered a tax resident of  Australia. If you have not established a permanent place of abode outside Australia, then your Australian tax residency will continue. A permanent place of abode is a place where you live and consider your home. This means you may still be considered an Australian tax resident even if you are not physically present in Australia for a given tax year. Individuals who are not Australian citizens may also remain Australian tax residents if they travel overseas for short periods of time, while maintaining their home in Australia.

In an income tax year where you become or cease being a resident you will be considered a part-year tax resident.

Income Taxes as a Resident

Australian tax residents are assessed on worldwide income. This includes all forms of income including capital gains.

Tax Residency In Singapore

How Residency Is Determined

In Singapore you are a tax resident when you are physically present in Singapore for at least 183 days in a calendar year.

Income Taxes as a Resident

Singapore tax residents are typically only required to pay tax on Singapore sourced income, or foreign income that is brought into Singapore. Singapore does not tax capital gains.

Tax Residency In The USA

How Residency Is Determined

In the USA, all US citizens and dual citizens are required to lodge a tax return to declare their worldwide income, regardless of their tax residency.

Non-citizens are tax residents if they hold a Green Card that legally allows permanent residency.

Tax residency is determined by a physical presence test. This test requires physical presence in the USA for at least 31 days in the relevant calendar year, after being present for a specific number of days totalling at least 183 days over the preceding two years.

Income Taxes as a Resident

Both citizens and tax residents of the USA are taxed on their worldwide income. Citizens are taxed on worldwide income even if they no longer reside in the US and do not meet the residency test. There are some foreign earning exclusions for individuals who meet specific requirements.

Tax Residency In The UK

How Residency Is Determined

In the UK you are a tax resident under the Statutory Residence Test. This test considers a range of factors including the number of days you are present in the UK, your connections to the country, and other relevant criteria.

The UK has an automatic overseas test. This means if you spend less than 16 days in the UK (or less than 46 days if you have not been a UK resident for the previous 3 tax years), or you are working abroad full-time and spend less than 91 days in the UK, then you are a non-resident.

There are three automatic resident tests:

  1. You are present in the UK for at least 183 days.
  2. Your only home is in the UK for at least 91 days in a row, and you visited or stayed for at least 30 days in the tax year.
  3.  You worked full time in the UK for any period of 365 days and at least one of those days falls in the tax year you’re checking.

Where you do not meet either automatic test the “sufficient ties test” will determine if you are a resident. This test considers your UK connections, including family, accommodation, work, and physical presence, over a number of years.

Income Taxes as a Resident

UK tax residents are taxed on their worldwide income. However, non-UK sourced income may be exempt from UK taxation in certain circumstances.

Dual Residency

As can be seen from the various residency tests of just these four countries, there is variety in how residency is determined and the tax implications this could lead to. Given the variation in tests, you could easily be considered a resident of multiple countries over a single tax year.

When an individual is a tax resident in multiple countries the next step is to determine if there are tie breaker rules contained in a DTA. These rules provide guidance on determining an individual’s primary place of residence.

Residency Tie Breaker Rules

Most countries adopt the Mutual Agreement Procedure, specifically Article 4 of the OECD Model Tax Convention, to resolve dual residence situations. Accordingly, there is a fairly standard set of tie breaker rules across various DTAs. These tiebreaker rules are outlined as follows:

  1. Permanent Home – Where you have a permanent home in one country but not the other, you will be a resident of the country where your home is located.
  2. Centre of Vital Interests – The country in which you have closer personal and economic connections will be your country of residence. This may include family and personal ties, social and economic activities such as work and club memberships, and where you keep your main assets.
  3. Habitual Above – Where neither of the previous tests assist, the country where you regularly abide or reside in will be your country of residence.
  4. Nationality – Where none of the previous tests assist you will be a resident of the country in which you are a national.

In most cases an individual will be able to determine their residence using one of these tie breaker rules.

When it comes to Australia, Singapore, the USA and the UK, most of these countries adopt comprehensive DTAs between one another, in which Article 4 of the OECD Model Tax Convention is essentially utilised. This includes the DTAs between the following countries:

  • Australia and Singapore
  • Australia and the USA
  • Australia and the UK
  • Singapore and the UK       
  • The UK and the USA

Notably, there is no DTA between Singapore and the USA. This means that dual residents of Singapore and the USA will need to rely on the taxation rules and access to tax relief options in each country in order to avoid double taxation.

Dual Tax Residents

In very rare cases an individual may have sufficient ties to multiple countries in which they are either not a citizen, or in which they hold dual citizenship, leading to a situation whereby they may not be able to effectively use tie breaker residency rules to accurately determine their country of residence. This creates a complex situation wherein no country has clear priority for determining tax residency and a decision regarding residency is subjective.

This situation could theoretically lead to an individual being subject to taxes being assessed on their worldwide income in multiple tax jurisdictions. The Mutual Agreement Procedure contained in some DTAs enables a taxpayer to request the competent authority in one country to engage with their counterparts in another country to resolve double taxation.

Managing Dual Tax Residency

In summary, determining residency is an important factor because it determines which tax jurisdiction has primary taxation rights.

DTAs exist to help mitigate the risk of double taxation by providing tie breaker rules in determining residency and placing restrictions or limitations on taxation rights over certain types of income, as well as providing tax relief through the recognition of foreign tax credits.

Where no DTA exists, or where an individual’s residency cannot be determined, other provisions are required to mitigate the impact of double taxation. 

Tax residency can be a very complex area and it is recommended you seek specialist international tax advice for your particular situation. 

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Are you required to pay Inheritance Tax as an Australian Resident?

Daniel Wilkie   |   5 Apr 2022   |   6 min read

Australia does not have an inheritance tax. When a person dies, the estate, or person who inherits the assets does not have to consider any special inheritance tax on the money or assets that are taking ownership of. While a beneficiary may be required to pay taxes from Superannuation death benefit payments, or capital gains on the sale of assets that have been inherited if those assets are sold, there is no specific tax levied on the value of inherited assets. 

However, there are many countries that do have inheritance taxes, including the United Kingdom. 

This means that when an Australian inherits money or assets from abroad, they may find themselves subject to an unfamiliar “inheritance tax”.

What is inheritance tax?

In a similar vein, estate taxes are levied on the value that is paid out of a deceased’s estate. The estate is required to pay these taxes, rather than the beneficiary. This means that the beneficiary receives the net assets after the estate has paid any required.

In some countries these taxes are referred to as “death duty”.

The laws around inheritance taxes vary between tax jurisdictions. There may be different tax rates, different inclusions on what type of assets are taxed and different types of exemptions or limits.

Some countries like the United Kingdom levy inheritance taxes where assets are transferred to trusts and for this reason many British expats should seek inheritance tax advice before establishing a trust in Australia.

When would an Australian resident be required to pay Inheritance taxes?

As an Australian resident you are not subject to inheritance tax, regardless of where the inheritance is coming from. However the deceased estate may be subject to estate taxes prior to paying or transferring your inheritance to you.

In essence this means you, as an individual taxpayer, do not have to be concerned about being assessed for specific inheritance taxes.

What taxes does an Australian need to be aware of when inheriting assets from overseas?

1. Ongoing earnings from the inherited estate

When you receive money from an inheritance you may be subject to taxation on any of the amounts that have been earned as income, and were not already taxed within the estate. This is because a deceased individual may continue to gather income after their date of death. If there is a delay between the date of ownership of the estate assets being transferred to you and the physical transfer of such assets to you then you may personally be assessed on such income. The executor of the estate would make you aware of any income amounts that this may apply to.

Furthermore, any ongoing income that you earn from inherited assets will be taxed under ordinary taxation laws. For example, if you inherit a business, you will be subject to any income tax on the ongoing business earnings once the business has been transferred to you. If you inherit an investment property then you will be subject to income tax on the ongoing rental income that you earn once the property has been transferred to you.

Since we are talking about inheritance from an overseas estate, it is important to note that you may also continue to be subject to taxes in the country in which the inherited asset is located. In this situation most countries have a double tax agreement with Australia which will typically ensure that you are limited to paying taxes based on the country that has the highest income (or capital gains) tax rate.

2. Capital Gains Tax

Sometimes a deceased estate may be liquidated so that the beneficiaries are simply paid out in cash. Other times beneficiaries may be bequeathed assets such as property, shares, a family business, collectables, or other assets.

Under Australian Capital Gains Tax laws the date of death is typically used as the date you acquired the asset, with the market value of the asset at this point in time being your cost base. This means that when you eventually sell the asset you will be subject to capital gains tax on any capital gain made on this sale.

There may be some exclusions. For instance if you inherit a family home and move into or continue to live in that home, then you may be exempt from capital gains under the main residence exemption.

3. Superannuation Death Benefits

A superannuation death benefit may be paid to you as a lump sum or an income stream. Typically a lump sum death benefit is tax-free where you were a dependent of the deceased. If you were not a dependent, or you receive a superannuation death benefit income stream, then you may be subject to taxes on part of the death benefit, depending on the components of the benefit paid.

4.  Bringing money into Australia

If you have inherited cash from an overseas estate you also need to be aware of the impact of transferring funds from overseas into Australia.

Foreign currency can be treated as a CGT asset. This means that when you withdraw money from an overseas bank account you are triggering a taxable event. This is because exchange rate valuations fluctuate and there can be a difference between the value of what you originally inherit and the value of what ends up in your Australian bank account, purely because of these exchange rate fluctuations.

This means that you may be taxed on any increased value of the overseas money, from the time of inheritance to the time the funds are transferred to your Australian bank account.

Inheriting money from overseas

In simple terms, inheriting money from an overseas estate is similar to inheriting money from within Australia. While you will not personally be assessed on inheritance taxes, you do need to consider other taxes based on the ongoing benefits earned through the inheritance.

The biggest difference is the added complications that inheriting from overseas may impose, including:

  • Potential capital gains tax on exchange rate fluctuations when withdrawing foreign currency
  • Estate taxes imposed on the estate that are paid prior to distributing your inheritance
  • Foreign taxes imposed on continuing to hold onto any foreign assets or investments

Once you receive the inheritance the assets or money received are yours. This means that their ongoing use and benefit are assessed, where applicable, in your hands, just as any ordinary assets or finances that you earn or invest in yourself, would be. 

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Understanding the Differences Between Australian Citizenship, Visa Residency and Tax Residency

Daniel Wilkie   |   18 May 2021   |   10 min read

It can understandably be confusing to determine the difference between being an Australian tax resident for tax purposes compared to visa residency.

If you’re an Australian citizen who was born and continues living in Australia, then it’s pretty straightforward. You are an Australian for both citizenship and tax purposes.

But what about when things aren’t so clear? Can you be an Australian citizen but not an Australian tax resident? Can you be an Australian tax resident without being an Australian citizen? And what about Visa status? How does this change things?

Citizenship and visa residency are pretty clear cut. You are either a citizen or you aren’t. You either have an Australian residency visa, or you don’t. Tax residency, whilst linked to some degree to having visa residency or citizenship, is not as straightforward.

Australian Citizenship

You are an Australian citizen when Australia is legally your home country. This could be because you were born in Australia, or because you were born to Australian parents, or because you applied for citizenship. As an Australian citizen, Australia is considered to be your default country for all purposes, including taxation. This is why an Australian citizen may, in certain situations, continue to be treated as a tax resident, despite living in another country.

However, what about for those citizens from another country, living in Australia?

Australian Visa Residence 

People who are citizens of other countries are only permitted to stay in Australia per the terms of their Visa. There are many different types of visas, ranging from short-term holiday visas, through to permanent residency visas.

The type of visa you hold will play a part in your circumstances when determining tax residency. For instance, individuals on short-term visas are less likely to be considered Australian tax residents, while individuals on long-term or permanent residency visas are more likely to be considered Australian tax residents.

Australian Tax Residency

Despite what your citizenship and visa status is, tax residency is a matter of fact and intention. There is no application form to be completed nor automatic rule to become a tax resident.

When considering whether you are an Australian tax resident the primary factor is whether you, the individual, is living in Australia (see the “resides test” below). Conversely, you may be a foreign resident for tax purposes if you live outside of Australia. Living in Australia is distinguished between having a holiday in Australia, or staying in Australia for an extended period, whether temporary or permanent.

To help distinguish “permanency”, an individual must typically be living in Australia for at least six months to be considered a tax resident. Conversely, Australian citizens who are living overseas are typically still considered to be Australian tax residents if they are living overseas for less than 2 years. Indeed an Australian citizen may be living overseas for up to 5 years and continue to be considered an Australian tax resident if there are sufficient ties remaining in Australia to demonstrate that the nature of their overseas stay is “temporary”.

In order to determine tax residency specific residency tests are considered.

Tests for Australian Residency

To determine whether an individual is a tax resident there are a number of tests that can be applied. Passing any one of these tests will determine residency status.

             Resides Test

The first test for residency is the ‘resides test’. If you are physically present in Australia, intending to live here on a permanent basis, and have all the usual attachments in Australia that one would expect of someone living here, then you are a tax resident.

Factors considered include whether your family lives in Australia with you, where your business and employment ties are, where you hold most of your assets and what your social and living arrangements are. If you pass this test then there is no need to consider further tests. 

It is possible to be found to be a resident of more than one country. In cases where you are found to be a dual resident, you may need to consider tie breaker rules in any relevant Double Tax Agreement. 

If you don’t pass the resides test then you may still be a tax resident if you satisfy one of the three statutory tests instead.

             Domicile Test

The domicile test states that you will be found to be an Australian tax resident unless you have a permanent home elsewhere. An Australian citizen will have Australia as their domicile by origin. This means that even if an Australian citizen is living or travelling overseas their default home will be Australia. 

In such situations residency only changes when there is an intention to permanently set up a new domicile overseas. (For this reason people holidaying overseas or living overseas on a short-term basis can continue to be Australian tax residents even if they don’t step foot in Australia for years). Individuals who were domiciled in Australia but who do not cut their connection with Australia, will continue to be Australian residents.

             183-Day Test

The ‘183 day test’ is the day count test. This test is typically to capture foreign residents coming to Australia, rather than applying to Australians moving overseas. Individuals who come to Australia from overseas for at least 183 days may find themselves being Australian tax residents. Note that being in Australia for 183 days of the year does not automatically make such an individual a tax resident. Non residents who come to Australia for more than 183 days but do not have any intention of taking up residence in Australia may, depending on their intent and actions, be considered visitors or holiday makers, and therefore not qualify as tax residents.

             The Commonwealth Superannuation Test

Australian Government employees in CSS or PSS schemes, who work in Australian posts overseas, will be considered Australian residents regardless of other factors. 

Examples of Tax Residency and Foreign Tax Residency

To understand the difference it might help to look at a few examples of different scenarios.

             An Australian Citizen who is a Tax Resident

Tom is an Australian citizen who was born in Australia. He has lived in Australia his whole life, and intends to continue living here. During the year he goes on a 6 month holiday, travelling around Europe. At the end of his 6 months he decides to take advantage of another opportunity and stays in Africa for 3 months. After this time, he returns home to Australia. 

Tom’s tax residency never changes. Despite travelling overseas for 9 months of the year, he continues to be an Australian resident for tax purposes. This is because Australia is always his home, and his time overseas is not in the nature of a permanent move.

             An Australian Citizen who is not a Tax Resident

Jill is an Australian citizen who was born in Australia. She has lived in Australia for her whole life. However, in 2019 Jill accepts an opportunity to take a job in England. The position is a permanent position and requires Jill to move to England on a permanent basis. After acquiring the necessary visa to work and live in England, she sells her home and uses the proceeds to make the move to England, where she buys a new home and settles down. Jill brings her son to England with her, and closes down her Australian bank accounts. She does not expect to return to Australia, other than for occasional holidays.

On the day that Jill departs Australia she becomes a foreign resident for tax purposes. The fact that she is an Australian citizen does not change this. This is because it is clear from her actions and intentions, closing off ties to Australia, and establishing a new home in England,  that she is moving to England on a permanent basis. 

             A Tax Resident Living in Australia on a Permanent Residency Visa

Bob is from the United States of America. While in Australia on a working holiday visa, where he travels around the country, his final stop is at a small country town that feels like home to him. He makes friends and is even offered a permanent job there. Bob’s visa is almost up, so he goes back to the United States as planned, then takes the necessary steps to return to Australia and apply for a permanent residency visa. Bob effectively cuts his ties with the US and intends to make this small country town his new home and moves into a room with one of his new mates.

On Bob’s initial time in Australia under his working holiday visa, he will be considered a non-resident, or a temporary resident, depending on his visa. Even though he started thinking about making a permanent move at this stage, he had yet to take any steps to show this intention. However, on his return, which was made with all the actions necessary to show that this was a permanent move to Australia, he then becomes an Australian tax resident. 

             A Foreign Tax Resident with an Australian Permanent Residency Visa

Jane is a British citizen who has been living in Australia on a permanent residency visa for the past ten years. She just received news that her parents were in a bad accident and both need permanent care. Jane decides to pack up and move back home to care for her parents. She sells off her assets, closes her Australian bank account, and returns home to live with her parents. She also finds a part time job overseas.

Even though Jane has a permanent residency visa in Australia, she is no longer living here on a permanent basis. This means she is now a foreign resident for tax purposes.

Permanent and Temporary Residents

Even if an individual is deemed to be a tax resident, the ATO further distinguishes between temporary residency and permanent residency. Temporary residency typically occurs when an individual is genuinely residing in Australia on a “permanent” basis, however, are only in Australia on a temporary Visa, as opposed to living in Australia on a permanent residency Visa or obtaining Australian citizenship.

Temporary residents are only taxed on their Australian-sourced income.

Tax Residency is based on your Permanent Residence

As you can see from the above examples, tax residency is based on where an individual is permanently residing. If you are in Australia on a holiday, or only for a short time (less than 6 months), then you would not be considered an Australian resident for tax purposes.

However, holding a permanent residency visa, does not necessarily mean you are a tax resident. If you actually live in another country on a permanent basis, having your social and economic ties in another country, then you will be a foreign resident for tax purposes. 

It is important to note that there must be a permanent home elsewhere. If an Australian resident decided to travel the world for several years, although they may think they have departed Australia permanently, as they do not have a permanent home elsewhere, this would not constitute a decision to permanently reside in another country. Australia would continue to be their home, even though they are absent from Australia for a prolonged period of time.

Since determining tax residency can be quite complex, it is important to speak to a tax specialist to understand your situation.

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Changes to Foreign Surcharge: Discretionary Trusts with property in NSW or VIC

Daniel Wilkie   |   22 Mar 2021   |   4 min read

Discretionary trusts provide flexibility in relation to revenue and capital distributions. This is one of the reasons they are a common choice for families. However, when there is a potential foreign beneficiary, the discretionary trust can find itself facing additional costs in the form of foreign surcharges. Foreign surcharges are additional fees that various state jurisdictions impose on the duties and/or land taxes over and above the original impost.

The 2020 changes to foreign surcharge requirements mean that administration for Australian discretionary trusts became a lot more complex.  

Foreign Surcharges are subject to a complex array of rules

Each state and territory has its own rules for determining when a beneficiary is a “foreign person”. They also have their own rules for governing foreign surcharges, with some states even imposing clawback rules in the event a beneficiary later becomes a foreign resident. For this reason it is important to obtain specific advice for the relevant state or territory when a discretionary trust intends to purchase property. 

Ultimately, any discretionary trust that is determined to have foreign beneficiaries will be required to pay both the ordinary state duties and/or land tax, as well as the relevant foreign surcharge. For this reason most discretionary trusts aim to avoid having foreign beneficiaries. Where this is not practical for the purpose and primary aim of having the trust in the first place, the trustee must be aware of how having foreign beneficiaries will impact their financial considerations.

Changes for NSW discretionary trusts that own residential property

On 24 June 2020 the State Revenue Legislation Further Amendment Act 2020 came into effect in NSW. This Act changed the foreign person surcharges for both land tax and duties where residential land located in NSW was owned by a discretionary trust. 

The change means that a trustee is deemed to be a foreign person unless the trust deed explicitly excludes all foreign persons from being beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries. This clause in the trust deed must be irrevocable. This means an individual beneficiary who has children overseas, who are defined as foreign persons, would not be able to amend the deed to include their foreign child as a beneficiary. 

Non-compliant trusts, i.e. trusts that do not exclude both foreign persons, and potential foreign persons, as beneficiaries, will deem the trustee to be treated as a foreign trustee. The trust then becomes subject to the foreign surcharge rate of duty. 

In NSW the rate of foreign surcharge is presently 8% of dutiable transactions relating to residential land while for land tax the rate is 2%. These charges are payable in addition to ordinary rates. 

Retrospective Impact of the change in NSW

One of the most concerning things with the change in NSW is that the law applies retrospectively from 21 June 2016 for dutiable transactions, and from 2017 for land tax surcharges. 

If you don’t have any foreign beneficiaries then you have until 31 December 2020 to amend your trust deed to irrevocably remove both foreign persons and potential beneficiaries who could be foreign persons, if you wish to avoid the foreign surcharge. 

If you have previously not had foreign beneficiaries, but you do not wish to amend the trust deed because you will, or potentially will, have foreign beneficiaries, then you will need to consider if you are liable for any retrospective duties and land taxes.

Victorian changes

Victoria has also implemented some changes as of 1 March 2020. While these changes essentially have the same impact as in NSW, the law does not apply retrospectively.  

What should you do if you have a discretionary trust with property?

If you have a discretionary trust that holds property, or is intended to hold property then you need to assess the importance and likelihood of having beneficiaries who are foreign persons, or could potentially be foreign persons. This includes assessing your current trust deed, evaluating the goals and purpose of the trust, and reviewing the financial impact of having, or potentially having, foreign beneficiaries.

This may result in a change to your trust deed in order to intentionally exclude any foreign, or potentially foreign beneficiaries, or it may involve a change in your investment strategy. 

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Australians Moving to the UK: A Brief Comparison of the Australian and UK Tax System

Daniel Wilkie   |   16 Mar 2021   |   8 min read

The Australian tax system is surprisingly different to the UK tax system.

This makes a simple comparison between the two challenging. 

Determining, from an individual taxpayer perspective, which country has higher taxes, isn’t straightforward. Both countries apply progressive rates of tax, as well as a range of potential adjustments and offsets.

Income taxes are lower in the UK due to the progressive rates of tax applying at higher levels of taxable income, but as the UK also has much higher medical contribution taxes than Australia, the UK taxpayer may end up with a higher overall tax burden.

In Australia, income tax is assessed on the taxable income of a taxpayer which is assessable income less allowable deductions while in the UK specific “allowances” may reduce the different types of income before that income is taxed. 

Australian resident taxpayers have a standard tax free threshold, regardless of the type of income or income level, while UK taxpayers have access to different allowances (tax free amounts) that can vary based on income level and the type of income they are earning.

Foreign sourced income is also treated quite differently in the UK, with a threshold applying before tax is imposed.

The following table highlights some fundamental differences between the two tax systems:

Australian SystemUK Tax System
Assessable IncomeProgressive rates of tax applied to taxable income.Progressive rates of tax applied to taxable income- but different rates apply to capital gains and different types of income have allowances deducted before taxes are assessed.
Tax Free componentStandard tax free threshold applies to all taxpayers on the first $18,200 of their income, regardless of the source of this income.A personal allowance is deducted from the taxpayer’s income before tax is assessed. This allowance is increased for married taxpayers and blind taxpayers, but is reduced for high income earners. Additional allowances are separately applied to different types of income, such as capital gains and investment income. 
Public HealthFlat rate of medicare levy applies to all taxpayers unless they are exempt. Variable rate of health insurance taxes applies, depending on income type and amount of income. This is paid by both the employer and the employee. 
Personal benefits provided by an employerPersonal benefits are taxed to the employer as fringe benefits. There are a range of concessions and exemptions that may be applied. Personal benefits are taxed to the employee, at the value of the benefit. There are some benefits that are exempt. 
Residency An individual who resides in Australia, or an Australian citizen who doesn’t setup a permanent home outside of AustraliaPhysically present in the UK for a specified period of time during the tax year
Individual Taxpayer’s Tax year1 July to 30 June6 April to 5 April
PAYG SystemPAYGW (Pay As You Go Withholding) means employers withhold some of an employee’s wage to be paid to the tax office. This helps cover the individual taxpayer’s annual tax assessment. Any excess PAYGW becomes a tax refund. PAYE (Pay As You Earn) is similar to Australia’s PAYGW system. When too much PAYE has been withheld then an individual can apply for a tax rebate (tax refund) for the excess. 
Who is Required to Lodge a Tax ReturnAll Australian residents and any non-residents with any Australian sourced income are required to lodge a tax return (some exclusions apply for residents who earn under the tax free threshold and have no PAYGW to claim, and for non-residents who only earn certain types of income, such as interest income covered by PAYGW under the DTA). Most employees’ taxes are covered by their company’s payroll system, meaning they don’t need to lodge a tax return. Tax returns may need to be lodged where:

– Income other than employment income is earned (above the allowance)
– Foreign income was earned
– You are a higher rate taxpayer (annual income over 100,000 pounds)
– You need to claim a tax rebate for excess PAYE

Residency

Australian residency is generally dependent on whether an individual actually resides in Australia, however Australian citizens may continue to be Australian tax residents while temporarily residing overseas. There are a number of tests that can be used to help determine residency.

UK residency is based on the number of days an individual is physically present in the UK during the tax year. For more complex situations that do not meet the automatic test, other factors may apply.

Tax Rates

Both Australia and the UK apply progressive rates of tax ranging from 0% to 45%.

However, while Australia has a standard initial tax free threshold for all taxpayers, the UK utilises a system of allowances that taxpayers deduct from their income before tax is assessed. The amount of allowance changes depending on a range of factors, and different allowances are applied for different types of income, such as employment income, investment income and capital gains.

Medicare/ NHS

Australians pay a flat rate of medicare (2%), unless they are exempt. High tax payers pay an additional medicare levy surcharge of up to 1.5%, unless they pay for private hospital health insurance. 

In the UK both the employer and the employee are required to pay a contribution towards national health insurance, at rates varying from 0% up to 13.8%.

Capital Gains

Both Australian and the UK impose a capital gains tax.

In Australia capital gains are simply added to an individual taxpayer’s assessable income and taxed at the marginal rate at which the income falls. Assets that have been owned for more than 1 year can be discounted by 50% before being included as assessable income. Other exemptions may also be applied to reduce or rollover capital gains.

The UK tax system gives taxpayers an annual allowance for capital gains. Any capital gains up to the allowance each year are tax free. Like Australia, there are also other exemptions that may be applied to reduce or rollover certain capital gains. 

In the UK, capital gains are taxed at a different rate to other income, and residential property is taxed at different rates to other assets. Higher/additional rate taxpayers pay 28% on residential property and 20% on other chargeable assets. Basic rate taxpayers will pay either 10% or 20% on capital gains, unless it is on residential property, in which case the rate is either 18% or 28% (depending on the size of the gain and the taxable income of the taxpayer.

Both countries have an exemption for the sale of an individuals’ main residence.

Inheritance tax

Australia does not have an inheritance tax.

Neither inheritances nor deceased estates attract any specific form of tax. Any property or investments that are inherited will attract taxes in the same way as any property or investments that were acquired personally and subsequently sold. (There are some provisions for inheriting a main residence that allow the main residence exemption to be carried over).

The UK has a standard inheritance tax rate of 40% above the tax free threshold (the standard tax free threshold is currently 325,000 pounds).

Where everything is left to a spouse, civil partner, charity or community amateur sports club, there is normally no inheritance tax to pay. When your home is given to your children (including adopted, step, and foster children), the threshold can increase to 500,000 pounds.

If an individual who is married (or in a civil partnership) passes away with an estate that is worth less than their threshold, then the unused portion of their threshold can be added to their partner’s threshold for when they die.

The inheritance tax may be reduced to 36% on certain assets if at least 10% of the net value of the estate is left to charity in the will. There are some other reliefs and exemptions to help reduce inheritance taxes on gifts donated prior to death, business relief, and agricultural relief.

Australian and UK Tax Systems

Each tax system has a range of complexities that are unique to the respective country.

In some ways the basic Australian tax return is more straightforward for the individual taxpayer.

On the other hand, the UK system’s use of deductible allowances for different types of income, provides for a range of tax planning avenues that are not available to Australians.

Since the tax systems between each country are so different, and residency changes can trigger complex tax issues, it is important to seek expert advice in both countries when making a move between Australia and the UK.

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Australian Moving to the UK: How Do I Treat Non-UK Sourced Income?

Daniel Wilkie   |   15 Sep 2020   |   6 min read

One of the top questions we are asked by Australians who are moving to the UK, is “how am I taxed on my non-UK sourced income in the UK?”

Since a UK non-resident would only be taxed on any UK sourced income, this question is predicated on the basis that the Australian is moving to the UK on a permanent basis. A permanent move means that they are ceasing to be an Australian tax resident and instead will be considered a UK tax resident.

In general, just like Australia, the UK taxes residents on their worldwide income. This means that UK tax residents have to pay tax on any income they earn, regardless of where the income is sourced. However, there is a clause for what they consider “non-domiciled” residents, whereby taxes are instead paid on a remittance basis. Since many Australians moving to the UK would fall into the definition of a “non-domiciled” resident, this is an important question. We cover what this means below. 

Australian Tax Rules on Non-Australian Sourced Income

For comparison, let’s consider the Australian rules on residency. Most people are aware that as an Australian tax resident you are required to pay Australian income tax on income you receive, regardless of where it is sourced. However there are certain exceptions for individuals who are temporary residents. Once you cease to be an Australian resident you are only required to pay Australian income tax on income that has an Australian source.

The UK operates on a similar basis, however their exemption for “temporary” residents is measured and treated differently than Australia’s exemption.

UK Residency Rules

In general, tax residents of the UK are liable for income tax in the UK, on their worldwide income. This means that it doesn’t matter where the income is sourced, it is included in the resident’s tax return.

In the UK you are automatically considered a tax resident when either one of of the following applies:

  • You spend over 183 days in the UK during the tax year.
  • Your only home was in the UK (owned, rented or lived in for at least 91 days, with at least 30 days spent there in the tax year).

Conversely you are automatically considered a non-resident if either of the following applies:

  • You spent under 16 days in the UK (or 46 if you haven’t been classed as a UK resident for the previous 3 tax years). 
  • You worked on average 35 hours a week abroad, and spent less than 91 days in the UK, of which less than 31 days you were working in the UK.

Keep in mind that in instances where an individual would be considered dual tax residents of Australia and the UK, then the tie breaker rules in the Double Tax Agreement require consideration to determine which country has taxing rights on the different sources of income.

However, while the general rule is that tax residents are assessed on their worldwide income, there is, as indicated previously, an exception. This exception is for tax residents whom the UK considers to be “non-domiciled residents”.

Non-domiciled UK Residents

Non-domiciled residents are individuals, including Australian citizens, who are only living in the UK for the short to medium term.

A UK resident who has a permanent home outside of the UK is considered to have a domicile in that other country. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a specific, physical house, but more so that the ties to their home country mean that this country is considered to be their ‘permanent’ home. When an individual has a permanent home outside of the UK they are considered to be a “non-domiciled” tax resident of the UK.

In the UK a ‘domicile’ is typically the country in which your father permanently resided when you were born. For instance, the country in which you are a citizen by descent. However, this may not be the case if you have legitimately and permanently moved to another country, with no intention of returning to your original home country. This would mean that your ‘domicile’ changes to the new country in which you begin to permanently reside.

“Remittance” Rules on Taxes on Non-UK Sourced Income for Non-domiciled Residents

For non-domiciled residents, non-UK sourced income is treated differently depending on the total amount of the non-Uk sourced income. 

Under 2,000 Pounds

If you are a “non-domiciled” UK resident then you ignore all foreign income and gains if that income is under 2,000 pounds for the tax year and you do not bring that income into the UK. You must have a bank account in your home country, and the funds from that income must stay back in the home country instead of being transferred into the UK. If this is the case then you don’t have to do anything about your foreign income when lodging a tax return.

However, if the income you earn from overseas sources exceeds 2,000 Pounds, or you bring any income into the UK, then you must report that income in a self-assessed tax return.

Over 2,000 Pounds

When the non-UK sourced income exceeds 2,000 pounds (or the income is brought into the UK), the income can’t just be ignored. The rules under which foreign income is taxed in the UK, for non-domiciled residents, is the ‘remittance basis’. This essentially means that you have a choice on how you treat the reported income.

Choice of how UK Taxes are Sorted Out

Choice 1: You can Simply Choose to Pay UK Taxes on the Income. 

If you choose this option then you will be assessed for income tax on your foreign income. If tax is paid on the Australian sourced income (or may be taxed elsewhere if it is income relating to another country), there are a number of rules that ensure you are not taxed twice on this income. In some cases this will result in a reduction to your UK taxes. 

Choice 2: You can Claim the ‘Remittance Basis’.

If you choose to be taxed on the remittance basis, then you only have to pay tax on any of the income that you actually bring into the UK.

However, in a trade off for this consideration, you will lose any tax-free allowances for income tax and capital gains. You will also be required to pay an annual charge if your residency in the UK exceeds a certain timeframe. This annual charge is 30,000 pounds if you have resided in the UK for at least 7 of the past 9 years, or 60,000 pounds if you have resided in the UK for at least 12 of the past 14 years.

The remittance basis may be a great option if you are living in the UK for less than 7 years, however, beyond this you would need to assess your situation to determine your optimal position.

Seek Appropriate Advice for your Situation

Since the remittance basis can get complicated it is best to talk to a UK tax adviser for specific advice. You need to consider your own position, your long term intentions, and where you hold your investments, including rental properties, that are generating taxable income.

See here for a brief comparison of the Australian and UK tax system.

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